How Associations Can Use Location-Based Marketing

highlights_screenshot.pngLocation-based marketing (LBM) services like foursquare, Instagram, Plancast, and GetGlue allow many of us to check into almost anything, whether TV shows, movies, or conferences and share it with our community.   

As mobile adaption continues to grow over the past 12 months, location-based marketing services are also gaining traction. I recently joined a Focus roundtable with smart marketers from Silverpop, LunaMetrics, WCG, and the Location Based Marketing Association. The roundtable discussed key statistics around location-based marketing, the players, best practices, and case studies. Thanks to all of this rich content, I’ll cover what associations should be concerned with in this two-part blog post.

Location, Location, Location – Find Us!

Most associations are professionally using geolocation services minimally, adding their office(s) and/or conferences to Foursquare and leaving some suggested tips for visitors. Some orgs may be dabbling in geo more than others with promo codes offered (example: 15% off when you download this white paper) or via a “Treasure Hunt” game on the expo floor at an association's trade show, rewarding attendees for visiting a certain number of booths. Few, however, are using geo as part of a larger location-based marketing strategy.

Currently, spending on location-based marketing is at $460 million in the United States. Consumer adaption is showing good incremental growth. One year ago, only 8% of the U.S. population shared location versus 20% now.  The market is growing, but concerns over privacy issues are slowing it down rather than speeding it up. 

A lengthy discussion around the Girls Around Me mobile app was a big topic for the roundtable on the privacy front, but panelists were quick to point out that there are over 500 different apps out there just like it. Asif Khan, President & Founder of the Location Based Marketing Association, also pointed out that the split of location-based users is closer to 50/50 male/female.

So, while most of us our networking, sharing tips, and hoping our check-ins aren’t attracting any creeps, here’s what associations can do right now to ensure they’re geo-friendly and searchable:

Tip 1: Google Places – Are you listed on it?

Keep in mind that most people search for businesses online, so keeping a free, quick, and up-to-date location on Google Places and Google Maps is essential, and since this is a Google service, you better believe it’s going to ensure you have higher search rankings.

From the various apps like Highlight, Sonar, Glancee, and Kismet released last month at SXSW Interactive, what the new applications are offering are more ways to engage in "people discovery" and to navigate multiple events that live stacked on top of each other. In the future I believe we'll continue to see more products roll out that attempt to seamlessly stitch mobile and geo as part of our daily lives. Anyone who has taken a look at this Google Project Glass video sees Siri’s future step-sister in the making.  

While I’m not exactly psyched to jump on the DC Beltway anytime soon with a bunch of Project Glass-wearing drivers, it would be really nice to have my coffee order queued up at Starbucks and paid for, all via one device the next time my car inches into the parking lot. Not an idea that’s too far away, but still poses some operational dilemmas.

Screenshot by Ben Parr/CNET